Film Review: Lemon Tree
Originally released in 2008, this Israeli film was dissed and quickly discarded by its native filmgoers. It wasn't until the movie went into wide release around the world that it gained momentum as one of the finest of the year.
Lemon Tree tells the story of a forty-five year old Palestinian woman named Salma who has been widowed. Salma lives on the Israeli/West Bank border and outside her home is a grove of lemon trees which she has tended and cared for since her husband's death. When the Israeli Minister of Defense moves in next door to Salma, the security team assigned to protect him and his wife Mira quickly decide that Salma's lemon trees are a threat as they could hide snipers. A fence is first erected between the homes but soon thereafter Salma is served notice that her beloved lemon trees are to be cut down. As she begins legal proceedings to stop the proposed routing of her lemon grove, she becomes unlikely friends with the minister's wife, Mira. The two women forge a strong bond and Mira soon becomes one of Salma's most vocal defenders, to the chagrin of her husband and the security team who first raised the issue of destroying the trees. As the movie progresses, Salma doggedly pursues her cause, assisted by a young attorney who comes to fancy her, and Mira is forced to make some difficult choices in her support of Salma. When the Palestinian mission is abandoned, Mira and her husband move. A concrete wall has been built between the two homes and the last scene reveals that the lemon trees have been cut down.
Israeli audiences were quick to dismiss the film as a propaganda tool for the Palestinians, but filmmakers defended Lemon Tree as an important tool in the struggle to find peace between these two factions of Israel's populace. In presenting a politically charged story, the friendship that develops between Salma and Mira becomes the root of the film's premise and the decisions each has to make depict the internal dilemma of the situation as a whole.
Directed and produced by Eran Riklis, Lemon Tree stars Hiam Abbass, Ali Suliman, Danny Leshman, Rona Lipaz-Michael, Tarik Kopty, Amos Lavi, Lana Zreik and Amnon Wolf. The performances are powerful, the direction is crisp, and the cinematography is gorgeous. Even though the film ends differently than the viewer hopes for, the movie itself is a triumph, more than worthy of the praise and awards it received from the global community.